In the early 1950s, the French Ministry of Defence was looking for a high-precision chronograph capable of meeting demanding specifications. The watch to be selected must have a black dial with luminous hour-markers and hands to maximise legibility. The movement must be equipped with a flyback function, as well as a small seconds hand. A few years later, other armed forces began looking for a similar instrument. Blancpain, which had already won over the American Navy with its Fifty Fathoms diver’s watch, drew inspiration from it to develop a chronograph for the United States Air Force. This timepiece was offered to American military pilots through the distributor Allen V. Tornek, for whom Blancpain is thought to have created a dozen watches as prototypes. The total production of Air Command chronographs was probably very limited.
Renowned as the most sought-after military chronographs of the late 1950s, the Blancpain Air Command model has now been given a new lease of life. The 2019 edition exudes a style that is singularly faithful to that of the original. In keeping with its forerunner, intended at the time for pilots of the most modern aircraft of the era, it is equipped with a ratcheted “countdown” rotating bezel. Once set before flight, this feature enables instantaneous reading of the exact time when the fuel reserve is no longer sufficient for the plane to continue its trajectory. The time scale of the bezel, as well as the dial hour-markers and hands, are made of “old radium” type Super-LumiNova®, reproducing the orange hue of the original chronograph indications. The model bears a 30-minute totaliser at 3 o’clock and a 12-hour counter at 9 o’clock, while a tachymeter scale running around the chapter ring indicates speeds based on a 1,000-metre distance. The new Blancpain Air Command is powered by the F388B movement, whose high frequency of 5Hz is perfectly adapted to its functions, since it enables each second to be divided into tenth-of-a-second intervals.